Mission City Council candidates on the issues: New apartment developments, a dog park and the Gateway project

Jay Senter - October 30, 2017 11:36 am

Mission_City_Hall

Based on input from our readers, we asked the candidates running for Mission City Council to respond to three questions about issues facing the city. Here are their responses

New multifamily developments along Johnson Drive

A rendering of the Mission Trails project approved by the Mission City Council Wednesday.
A rendering of the Mission Trails project approved by the Mission City Council Wednesday.

Mission has seen an influx of new multi-family proposals in the Johnson Drive corridor. Do you support more apartments coming to the city’s central business district? Why or why not?

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Ward 1

Burton Taylor
My support for multi-use development along Johnson Drive is determined by a number of factors but it begins and ends with what our current residents most want in terms of growing Mission into a community in which they will choose to live, work and play.

I consider my neighbors Howard and Susan Kilgore, who have been in Mission for 30 years, as well as my two children who represent our community’s next generation of residents. We need to consider both as we develop Johnson Drive, and I am passionate about putting my experience building coalition among neighborhoods, community groups and businesses to develop plans that will ensure Mission will be an attractive community for generations to come.

With that in mind, we must plan in ways that are considerate of both our current community needs and those that we anticipate will make us a desirable place to live well beyond tomorrow. As I mentioned during the candidate forum, a significant segment of the next generation is demonstrating an interest in living in centralized, walkable communities where the concept of “live, work and play,” which makes Mission so desirable, reaches a whole new level. I am excited about Mission’s ability to respond to that expressed interest by developing Johnson Drive in a way that also protects and even complements our existing neighborhoods and makes us more competitive with nearby communities.

As we advance in our planning, however, I would insist that we be considerate of our existing neighborhoods in all that we do along Johnson Drive. In particular, as a resident of Ward 1, which is home to several wonderful multi-family neighborhoods, I would encourage our community to be extremely thoughtful in its planning so that we make certain to protect those established neighborhoods for generations to come, as well.

Hillary Parker Thomas
I support new multi-family units on our city’s business district, with caution. My reserved attitude is two-fold: concern over tax incentives and concern of potential transience. I do welcome new developments, like the new Mission Trails development, on Johnson Drive and recognize apartment tenants could bring in new revenue streams for the city. However, it is crucial for Mission to consider future implications of today’s developments, especially when using economic development tools.
A popular economic development tool, Tax Increment Financing (TIF), has been used extensively in cities throughout our Metro area. TIF designates future property tax dollars as tax incentives for developers to build in blighted areas of a city. With property taxes as one of the largest sources of income for our public schools, as a teacher, I am deeply troubled by the idea of taking property taxes out of our school and potentially putting new students (from the apartments) in our schools. While it is not anticipated that children will be living in the new multi-family units, it is difficult to forecast real-estate trends for even the next year, let alone 20 years (often the length of TIF agreements). My additional hesitation with bringing additional apartments into our business district is the increased transience in Mission. Mission has a large number of existing apartment complexes, many of which are near the business district. As a city with only three-square miles, we have to decide if Mission wants to add even more multi-family units to our community.
If elected to Mission City Council, I would look at each proposal situationally. More importantly, I would actively discuss the project details with Ward 1 residents to ensure I vote in their favor.

Ward 2

Steve Betzold
Betzold has indicated to the Shawnee Mission Post that while his name is on the ballot, he is not actively seeking a position on the council. He did not participate in our candidate questionnaire or forum.

Arcie Rothrock (incumbent)
With the Mission Trails project adding 200 apartment units and the Gateway project adding 168 units, I feel we are nearing the point of comfortable capacity. Before entertaining the idea of adding another multi-family project, I would like the city to consider the following:

  1. Impacts to traffic
  2. Wear and tear to the streets
  3. Impacts to the demand of public services – Police, Fire, Public Works

I would also look for the plan to be aesthetically attractive, request minimal to zero incentive, and complement its neighbors and location.

Ward 4

Sollie Flora
Mission has invested significant time and money toward the revitalization of Johnson Drive. I know that the project has had its critics, and that the long period of construction was tough on local businesses, but I believe that it has strengthened the city. I know that, for me, it played a role in choosing to make Mission my home.

While Mission is part of the larger KC metro area, walking into its local businesses gives you a welcoming, small town feel. When I regularly go to Twisted Sisters, for example, I see the same friendly employees, the same customers waiting on their first cup of coffee of the day. The success of the downtown revitalization effort has helped to make Mission a more closely connected community. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way – while knocking on hundreds of doors campaigning, I have repeatedly heard from citizens how much they love the downtown district.

For these reasons, we need to think about what policies, programs, and development decisions will best support our local businesses and the continuing success the revitalization of Johnson Drive. With the EPC apartment project going in next to Salvation Army at one end, and the Gateway project now moving forward at the other, there will be high-density developments bookending the downtown corridor. Greater density in the central business district will help draw more people in and lead to more revenue for our local businesses (and the city).
That being said, Mission already has a high proportion of rental units. We need to be cognizant of maintaining a balance, and we also need to make sure we’re listening to our residents and choosing the right projects. All proposals should be viewed critically on a project-by-project basis, and public input must be encouraged.

Suzie Gibbs (incumbent)
No, I do not support additional new Multi-familiy units in the city’s central business district. When the Mission Trails and the East Gateway apartments are completed, we will have over 300 new apartment units from Roe to Lamar. The mixed use is unique, providing Mission with a distinction not common to small cities. If another multi-family unit is proposed in the central business district, would we have to tear down some of the existing buildings? Those buildings add to the charm of Mission. Can we support another multi-family unit? Having empty units would not be an asset to Mission. And as a side note, I was definitely not in favor of the proposed multi-family unit that was proposed on Martway.

Bill Nichols
As Realtors say; “location, location, location” and then what the developer wants from the city will determine my support level. As of 2015 there are; “2,391 owner occupied, 2,477 renter occupied” homes, so Mission has a goodly population of renters with another (approx) 350 new apartments coming on Johnson Drive and East Gateway. Recently a developer wanted to build an apartment complex in the 6000 block of Martway, a delegation of mostly Ward 4 residents opposed it because of size and location, the Planning Commission voted unanimously against the proposal. Keeping citizens informed is a must for me, they know best.

A dog park for Mission

dogs-Mission_many
The Mission City Council has advanced the idea of creating an off-leash dog park for the city. Do you support the idea? Why or why not? If so, where would you like to see a dog park built?

Ward 1

Burton Taylor
I have been involved with local, state and federal government throughout my entire career and, along the way, I’ve been fortunate to build relationships with leaders in my life who have been great mentors when it comes to serving the community. These same individuals had one thing in common: they never lost sight of the fact that they were elected not to represent their own interests but to represent the interests of others.

While I love dogs, I would support the idea of a dog park not because of my personal interests but because the idea would have the support of our residents.

I am running for City Council because I am passionate about serving our community and this is an example in which I would hope my professional experience counts. In particular, I bring the experience of having served as a government relations director who was responsible for building coalition and agreement among communities to advance on a community project.

I mention this experience because, while a dog park is a wonderful idea, there are challenges ahead that will need to be overcome in order for one to be built in Mission. In particular, as I mentioned during the candidate forum, Mission is a relatively land-locked neighborhood, so we will need to evaluate spaces in our community that could accommodate a park. That said, we have a wonderfully creative and resourceful City Council and city staff that I would love the opportunity to work with to advance this plan.

Hillary Parker Thomas
Without a doubt, I support an off-leash dog park in Mission! Mission has many residents with dogs, especially apartment tenants, who would love to see this amenity brought to Mission. Additionally, an off-leash dog park could be an attraction to people outside of Mission; in turn, drawing them towards our business district. Being a land-locked city, the biggest concern with bringing a dog-park is trying to figure out where it could be built. I believe Mission has many under-utilized parks, many of which have been considered as a potential location. I believe a portion of Broadmoor Park could effectively be used to build an off-leash dog park because of its geographic location, size, and traffic. Unfortunately, The Dog Park Task Force found none of our existing parks to be an ideal location. I trust the new “Friends of the Dog Park” and our Parks and Recreation Department will extensively evaluate the best possible outcome. If we cannot find an ideal location in Mission, I would encourage a county partnership between Mission and surrounding cities to potentially have a shared space.

Ward 2

Arcie Rothrock (incumbent)
I would love for Mission to have a dog park. Mission residents love their animals. Seeing someone walking or taking their fur babies out for a break is just part of your day here in the city of Mission. In the discussions I’ve had with friends, neighbors, and those who have reached out, the benefit and desire for a dog park has been high.

As for location, I don’t have a specific one in mind, and am open to exploring different avenues which is another reason why I am excited to see what recommendations the “Friends of the Mission Dog Park” come back with.

Ward 4

Sollie Flora
I support the idea of creating an off-leash dog park in Mission. Full disclosure – I am very much a dog person. In fact, my rescue dog Max is by my side keeping me company as I write this. Together with my partner Dave, I’ve fostered 17 different dogs, helping each to find their forever home. While I’ve had to cut back during the campaign, I regularly help with adoption events for Unleashed, right here in Mission.

This past spring and summer, I also served on Mission’s Dog Park Taskforce. Our task was to create a recommendation regarding a dog park for the city, in the context of the Parks & Recreation Master Plan. We toured other dog parks in the area, heard from parks employees in Leawood and Lee’s Summit, and met several times to determine if further consideration should be given to bringing a dog park to Mission.

I was in favor of the idea of creating an off-leash dog park before I served on the Task Force; the information I subsequently learned only deepened my belief that the city should explore this opportunity. Both Leawood and Lee’s Summit parks staff referred to their dog parks as the #1 public amenity in their cities. In addition, most people in Mission who I’ve talked to about the possibility of a dog park while out campaigning have also been in favor of the idea.

On the recommendation of the Task Force, the City Council has formed a Friends of the Dog Park group to explore potential locations, funding sources, and partnerships for a dog park. In terms of an existing location, a portion of Broadmoor Park seems to make the most sense. I’m excited to see what options and proposals the Friends of the Dog Park group identifies.

Suzie Gibbs (incumbent)
No, i am not in favor of an off-leash dog park until I receive more information from the Park and Recreation Committee study. I do not have dogs, therefore, I have never been to a dog park. I have, however, talked with many residents who are in favor of one – and they tell me that if the Park isn’t constructed/planned out correctly, it will not work. For example, I would want to know where the park is to be located, south end of Mission, north end of Mission or at Broadmoor Park, where we have many youth leagues playing/practicing every week during their season. Will it benefit all of Mission or just the residents who reside near the Park? I would like to take a tour of other off-leash dog parks to see their facility and probably the most important question would be funding – where is the funding for this park coming from, as we do not have an off-leash dog park in our 2018 budget.

Bill Nichols
With Mission being landlocked and an acre or two of land needed for a project like this, I’m not sure where it would go. As for the dollars needed for land, fencing, gates, signage and upkeep, plus being under the “driveway tax” court decisions, it would have to be private dollars. There are six dog parks in the county, one across the border at Penn Valley Park and at least one in Kansas City, KS.

The future of Mission Gateway

The Gateway site has languished for years.
The Gateway site has languished for years.

What would a successful resolution to the long-stalled Mission Gateway project look like to you? How can the city get there?

Ward 1

Burton Taylor
I used to shop at the Mission Mall, and I still remember how excited our community was when the city first announced it would be bulldozed and replaced with a multi-use development. We envisioned new retail, new restaurants and new entertainment. The community was on the edge of its seat as to what was to come. That was a long time ago, and no one would deny it’s been a long road.

That said, it occurred to me that I felt that very same level of excitement at the City Council’s latest meeting when our Council voted to advance a new plan for the Mission Gateway project. The plan includes hotels, office space, retail and entertainment that will be a draw for our community and those around us. It is a promising plan, and I am proud of our City Council for negotiating a deal that is in the best interests of Mission residents.

That said, while planning for the long-stalled Mission Gateway project may have been resolved, our city needs to elect experienced leaders to join the Council who can keep the project on track.

I started my career 20 years ago as a newspaper reporter and have been active in the community ever since. I have the experience of growing a small business from Mission that is now recognized as a national leader in its industry. I also serve as volunteer president of a local nonprofit organization, and I have professional experience in government relations where I was charged with building support for development projects similar to Gateway.

With your support, I want to serve the community and apply this experience and other experience like it that I’ve gained throughout my career to making Mission a place we are all proud to call home for generations to come.

Hillary Parker Thomas
Gateway is not just an eye-sore, but a sore subject for many Mission residents. With the recent October 18th vote approving Gateway plans for a mixed-use area, including: two hotels, luxury apartments, office space, retail, and an entertainment space, hopes are high for the new development. For the first time in a while, I am also hopeful this project could bring the much-needed vitality to the east end of Johnson Drive and attract folks from all over our Metro area. Thankfully, the city has included provisions in their agreement with the developer to ensure taxes are paid on time and project finishes. Moving forward, it is vital for the Council to continue to hold developers’ feet to the fire, to ensure projects we invest in get finished in a timely manner. Please note: my forum video response to this question was given prior to the October 18th vote approving the Gateway plans.

Ward 2

Arcie Rothrock (incumbent)
In a perfect world, a successful resolution would have been for Valenti to redevelop the Gateway with zero participation from the city, and in a reasonable timeframe. With the lot having set empty for as long as it has, generating zero revenue, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about getting this thing going.

Even though I voted down the latest (now approved) Gateway redevelopment agreement, I am looking forward to the 45% proceeds of the city’s general sales tax and 11% of the transient guest tax. These two additions are projected to generate $545,000 a yr. in new revenue by 2021. Money our city and streets could really stand to use.

With the recent project plan approval from the city, I am hopeful that Valenti has what he needs to finalize deals with the tenants and obtain their signatures so he can finally share the details publicly.

Ward 4

Sollie Flora
On October 18, 2017, more than a decade after the Mission Mall was demolished, Mission and the Cameron Group finalized the redevelopment plan for the property. Unfortunately, the final proposed agreement was not made public until about 6 hours before the vote, leaving little time for public review or comment. I raised this precise concern at the City Council meeting, but the vote went forward. That being said, if the plan is completed, I believe that it will be to Mission’s benefit.

When I’ve been talking to residents about the passage of the redevelopment plan, they are understandably skeptical that the project will succeed. I’m cautiously optimistic. The plan, as passed, will provide an estimated $40.74 million in financial benefits to Mission over the next 20 years. In addition, it no longer relies upon a Wal-Mart that the people of Mission opposed, and instead reflects a true mixed-use project.

A successful resolution will mean timely, quality completion of all stages of the project. This includes the developer’s securing the as-of-yet-unnamed unique large-scale market concept tenant as an anchor for the development. Fortunately, the plan includes many provisions where if the developer does not do what he has agreed to do when he has agreed to do it, he will lose the incentives provided by the city. If elected, I will ensure that we firmly hold the developer to all of the terms of the agreement.

To learn more, I encourage everyone to read City Administrator Laura Smith’s October 17, 2017 Memorandum summarizing the project, beginning on page 50 of the meeting packet for the October 18th meeting, as well as Senior Municipal Advisor Bruce Kimmel’s October 16, 2017 Memorandum summarizing the key financial provisions of the agreement, beginning on page 54 of the same packet.

Suzie Gibbs (incumbent)
A successful resolution to the long-stalled Mission Gateway project has been resolved. Our City Finance Consultant, our Land Use Attorney, the city staff and the city council reached an agreement with the Developer, Tom Valenti at the October 18th City Council meeting. Now, we are eagerly awaiting for him to start construction.

Bill Nichols
If I had a magic wand I would wave it and have a local developer who understands us but, we have Tom Valenti and the Cameron Group of New York. I would suggest to the developer that they do not come before council again until signed leases and business names are available to share with Mission. The current Council did vote 7/2 in favor of (negotiated) incentives (some tax relief etc.) but gave Mr. Valenti another year to get started. It is privately owned property and there is just so much the city can do. First phase, according to Valenti, will be apartments and some retail.

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